Thursday, April 26, 2018

Charlotte Mason and Notebooking

In the educational world, progress is often assessed by worksheets full of true/false, multiple choice and fill in the blank worksheets.  It is easy to see what the child doesn't know from a set of pre-selected facts when we just mark right or wrong and move on.  In the Charlotte Mason world, however, progress is, for most subjects, assessed through narrations.  It seems like such a strange concept to allow our children to simply tell us what they know!  Asking them direct questions limits them to those pre-selected facts, but asking them to narrate gives them time to think over the material, form original thoughts, and share what they found important, memorable and worthy.  The idea behind an education, at least in our homeschool, isn't simply to know a set number of facts by their eighteenth birthday, but to make connections, form relationships, to have an interest in a wide variety of topics, and to be prepared as a lifelong learner.

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Now that we have left traditional worksheets and busy work behind, I have found our approach to language arts has changed drastically!  Narration is really one of the core methods behind the philosophy, but "tell me what you read" can get boring after a while.  To add variety to my children's narrations, and to jazz up their portfolios, I have found to be an great resource.

I have a Y2 student, who is still doing oral narrations, and a Y4 student, who is expected to do at least one written narration per week, and a Year 0 who is just along for the ride.  I have found quite a bit of useful material for all of them.

My Year 2 is studying mammals this year, and he loves for me to print out a relevant animal notebooking page for him.  He enjoys looking up the animal in his field guide and coloring while I read, but I make sure to print a page with a few lines for writing his narration or interesting facts.  (Or he dictates to me, since he is younger.)  If they don't have a specific mammal, I can always print a general mammal page with room to draw the animal, and he enjoys that too.

Of course, then my 5 year old wants a coloring page too - so she gets an animal coloring page of her choice!  There are so many options with different sized lines for printing (or no lines at all for non-writers), as well as the ABC animal pages or the ABC copywork pages (for the beginning writer), and a handful of history coloring pages that are appropriate for the precocious young one that likes to tag along but isn't easy for formal learning.  There really is something for all ages and skill levels.

My oldest son is transitioning into written narrations - one, sometimes two per week, and I like to alternate the book and subject each week for his narration, so he is writing about a diverse array of topics and has a variety of work represented at the end of the year.  Handwriting isn't his strong suit, so we do typed narrations often.  However, I still try to change things up and give him different types of notebooking pages to make him think about things differently.  Sometimes the page just asks for a summary.  This is great for shorter books (like the picture book biography from AO Y4) or family readings that don't require a lot of narrations throughout.

Then, each time I cycle back around to a subject, I try to choose a different type of written narration, which is super easy with these notebooking pages!  If he's done the book report, then a typed narration for science, I might choose the Science Experiment section when he does a hands-on activity, so he can do a write-up for his activities.

There is just so much depth to the website, that it really can be used by Charlotte Mason homeschoolers in different ways.
  • Famous Scientists: great to use after reading a biography 
  • History: many historical events can be documented through timeline or notebooking pages
  • Famous Poets: use as a copywork page for a favorite poem
  • Famous Artists:  contains notebooking pages and PRINTS for picture study!
  • Composers and Listening Pages: notebooking pages, coloring pages of the composer (great for little ones who like to join in), and Listening pages where they can write or draw what they thought/felt as they listened!  
  • Language Arts: There are a variety of Book Report pages, many of which can be used for a standard written narration
  • Geography: maps for following journeys in history and geography, and standard map drills 
  • Science/Nature Study: Wildflowers are on our list to study this spring.  There is a section that will work well...this is just a sampling of the different styles of pages.  If you have a dedicated nature journal, you can put these pages in, or customize your own complete nature journal with these pages.

Now, I know we don't need notebooking pages to dress up our narrations, but like I said, it gives us a little variety and keeps things fresh.  It works for us.  The pages are open-ended, meaning they aren't about right or wrong.  They are about the child's own connections and learning.  It can sometimes be hard to explain the Charlotte Mason methods, and how narration can convey so much, but carefully chosen pages for narrations can showcase the depth of the Charlotte Mason approach.

I feel like this is a solid investment at any time, but if you're unsure, you can check out my original review to see how we used NotebookingPages in the past (prior to committing fully to CM), and may I suggest you try out the Free Notebooking Pages Product Sampler first.  You can see a lot of the variety they have to offer and make an informed decision.

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